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Big Tech’s small mergers get more attention from US antitrust laws

On Wednesday, FTC officials released data on small acquisitions by five large tech companies, and the agency canceled guidelines for vertical mergers that combine the company with a supplier – both steps indicate plans to tighten deals.

After research started during the Trump administration, FTC officials found that Facebook, Google Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, together from 2010 to 2019, made 616 acquisitions worth over $ 1 million (roughly Rs 7.3 crore), but too much small to be named. reported to the antitrust authorities, among other things.

Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter, a Democrat, said it was inadequate to look at deals individually. “I think serial acquisitions is Pac-Man’s strategy. Each individual merger, considered independently, may not seem to have a significant impact. But the collective influence of hundreds of small acquisitions can lead to monopolistic behavior, ”she said.

Commissioner Christine Wilson, Republican, has called for a similar study of health care mergers.

Last year, the FTC sued Facebook, alleging that the social media company violated antitrust laws. He asked the judge to cancel Facebook’s deals in relation to the Instagram photo-sharing app and the WhatsApp messaging app, although both were reviewed by the agency.

The FTC, which began holding public meetings after progressive Lina Khan became chairman in June, also voted to overturn Trump-era guidelines for vertical deals. Republicans Wilson and Noah Phillips opposed the decision.

The Justice Department said in a statement that it is reviewing both the rules for vertical mergers and recommendations for horizontal deals or mergers of competitors.

“The department’s review has already identified several aspects of the guidelines that deserve close scrutiny, and we will work closely with the FTC to update them as needed,” said Richard Powers, acting head of the antitrust division, in a statement.

The FTC rarely tries to stop vertical deals, but recently asked a judge to block the Grail deal by biotech company Illumina. Companies are looking to sell blood tests to diagnose dozens of cancers.

Five commissioners voted party-wise to approve a policy statement requiring consumers to be notified of any unauthorized use of health data. The panelists also approved a process for accepting proposals for potential rules.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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